New York Courts Document Assembly Innovations — Spanish Instructions and Court Awards

The New York courts are implementing integrating Spanish instructions into their DIY document assembly program.  If users so choose, the online questions appear in Spanish as well as English  and the printed instructions to the litigants also appear in Spanish.

Here is an example of the online questioning, using the A2J software:

Another innovation is the establishment of awards.  As explained in the recent NY report on its Access to Justice Program, “This award recognizes UCS personnel and courts who have made exceptional contributions to the successful development and implementation of the DIY Form programs, furthering equal access to justice for unrepresented litigants,”

As to the award:  “In 2010, each winning “DIY Star” courthouse was awarded a large touch-screen monitor and computer for litigants to use the DIY Form programs.” The winners from 2010 are listed here.  The graphic for the awards is nice.

Congratulations to Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Fern Fisher for these and many other superb innovations.  They are all detailed in the Report.


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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2 Responses to New York Courts Document Assembly Innovations — Spanish Instructions and Court Awards

  1. Jackie says:

    In Colorado, it was the comment to Rule 2.6 that was catrnoversiol, perhaps because our comment spells out some of those reasonable steps that can be taken to promote impartiality and fairness. For me the interesting issue is whether we can now develop rules of procedure that affirmatively promote judicial engagement with these ideas in courtrooms. I’ll give one extant but obscure rule that I think provides a good first step beyond saying what is not unethical, to what could be more widely required of judicial officers. Rule 2.6A judge shall accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding, or that person’s lawyer, the right to be heard according to law.Colorado Comment: The steps that are permissible in ensuring a self-represented litigant’s right to be heard according to law include but are not limited to •liberally construing pleadings;•providing brief information about the proceeding and evidentiary and foundational requirements;•modifying the traditional order of taking evidence;•attempting to make legal concepts understandable;•explaining the basis for a ruling; and•making referrals to any resources available to assist the litigant in preparation of the case. Self-represented litigants are still required to comply with the same substantive law and procedural requirements as represented litigants.The existing procedural rule that actually mandates the provision of brief information about the proceeding, and also modifies the traditional order of taking evidence, including providing a role for questioning by the judge is:Colorado Rules for Traffic Infractions, Rule 11, Final Hearing(a) The hearing of all cases shall be informal, the object being to dispense justice promptly and economically. The referee shall ensure that evidence shall be offered and questioning shall be conducted in an orderly and expeditious manner and according to basic notions of fairness. The referee may call and question any witness consistent with the referee’s obligation to be an impartial fact finder favoring neither the state nor the defense.(b) The order of proceedings at the hearing shall be as follows:(1) Before commencement of the hearing, the referee shall briefly describe and explain the purposes and procedures of the hearing.(2) The officer shall offer sworn testimony and evidence to the facts concerning the alleged infraction. After such testimony, the referee and the defendant or counsel may examine the officer.(3) Thereafter, the defendant may offer sworn testimony and evidence and shall answer questions, if such testimony is offered, as may be asked by the referee(4) If the testimony of additional witnesses is offered, the order of testimony and the extent of questioning shall be within the discretion of the referee(5) Upon the conclusion of such testimony and examination, the referee may further examine or allow examination and rebuttal testimony and evidence as deemed appropriate(6) At the conclusion of all testimony and examination, the defendant or counsel shall be permitted to make a closing statement.(c) The Colorado Rules of Evidence do not apply to hearings under these rules.This is a rule designed for cases where everyone, including the prosecuting police officer, is pro se. Section (b)(1) provides the mandate to the judicial officer that goes beyond the more aspirational section (a). It would not be a hard to imagine a similar rule written for small claims cases, or even as a default for pro se litigants in other civil cases.

  2. I encourage court staff, judges, court IT department, elected officials, legal aid to read the NY Report. It lays out what is basically a holistic approach to tackle the issue of people appearing in court without a lawyer and provides wonderful data on the various and diverse initiatives the court is leading.

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